Episode 5: Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona, was sponsored by Smugmug.com. Both Jack Fusco and Jeff Bartlett have used Smugmug since launching their photography careers and they couldn't recommend a better service. Without their support, Chasing Darkness wouldn't have been possible.
For Chasing Darkness viewers interested in launching their own photography website,
Smugmug is offering a 15% subscription discount.
About Episode 5: For our final episode in 2018, we partnered with Smugmug to highlight Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona.
From the beginning of our project, we wanted to showcase these two communities for two distinct reasons: they're historical, at least in a dark sky capacity, and they have the easiest access of any dark sky place we've ever photographed.
Flagstaff was the world's first Dark Sky Place, receiving the distinction in 2001. Sedona became a Dark Sky Community in 2014, but it has a long history of dark sky-friendly lighting ordinances. As dark sky communities, both destinations make it possible to view the night sky from within the city limits. While our film showcases the towns and their surrounding landscapes, visitors wouldn't need to travel far to see the night sky. Simply walk outside and look up. It's spectacular.
Biggest Highlight: There are two major highlights to our visit to Flagstaff and Sedona. After filming four episodes across North America together, we had a special guest join us in Arizona. Jack's two-year-old boxer puppy, Kona, tagged along. He adjusted to our coffee-fueled, sleepless schedule (without the caffeine) and became the four-legged star of our final video.
In terms of location, our favorite landscape came on our final night in Sedona. We hiked to Devil's Bridge, just outside Sedona. It's just a 5-mile round trip hike and it's incredibly popular during the day. We arrived just before sunset and soon realized we had the entire place to ourselves. We had just enough daylight to scout our compositions. Over the next few hours, we photographed sunset, filmed timelapses to highlight the transition from blue hour to night, and finally captured the stars as the moon set beyond the western horizon.
Biggest Challenge: Throughout this project, we had grown accustomed to working in complete darkness. Throughout the first four episodes, we never had to deal with ambient lighting. We were photographing Dark Sky Preserves and we were often miles from the nearest light source. In Sedona and Flagstaff, much of our film was created within city limits.
Despite being Dark Sky Communities with strict lighting ordinances, there was still plenty of ambient light that forced us to adapt our shooting style.
On a more comical note, we were also caught off-guard by the weather conditions. We came prepared for what we considered stereotypical Arizona weather: predominantly clear, dry and hot weather. While those conditions are typical at lower elevations, near Phoenix, it's a different story above 6000 ft in both Flagstaff and Sedona. During the night, in November, the temperatures dropped below freezing. We stayed warm, but I'm sure we will both pack warmer clothing for our next visit.
About Flagstaff: In regards to protecting the night sky, Flagstaff, Arizona, is a wildly unique city. It's first lighting ordinance was created in 1958 and, in 2001, it became the world's first Dark Sky Place.
Home to 72000 people. Flagstaff proves that economic development and protecting the night sky happen simultaneously.
Flagstaff is also home to both the Lowell Observatory and the US Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station.
About Sedona:: In 2014, Sedona, Arizona, received its International Dark-Sky Association designation as a Dark Sky Community. The town of 10000 residents takes its dark sky-friendly lighting policies so seriously, too, that even the local McDonalds features a turquoise arch rather its trademark golden arch.
The town is surrounded by stunning red-rock desert landscapes, too, which feature prominently in our video. After filming five videos, across countless destinations, it feels cliche to say we saved one of the most scenic for last; however, the landscapes immediately surrounding Sedona is truly inspiring. It's incredible to think visitors don't need to leave city limits to access wonderful hiking trails and truly astounding dark skies.